Feedback from the Rutgers & Rowan communities is invited and encouraged. – Promoted by Rosi
The proposal to merger Rutgers Camden and Rowan University, with its new medical school, is one of several proposals made by Gov. Christie’s Advisory Committee on the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Their report, a 57 page pdf, is available on the web.
The bulk of the report concerns the restructuring of UMDNJ. Two of the committee’s charges pertained to South Jersey. One was “whether UMDNJ.’s South Jersey .-based schools should be merged with any
of the senior public higher education institutions in South Jersey” and the other “how graduate medical education should be delivered in South Jersey.”
UMDNJ has a medical school in Stratford (Camden County), the School of Osteopathic Medicine. The Advisory Committee decided against merging that school with any other institution and essentially leaving it as an independent school.
Cooper Hospital in Camden had had an agreement with another UMDNJ institution, Robert Woods Johnson Medical School, that allowed medical students to do two years of their school program at Cooper. Cooper decided to open its own full medical school which became attached to Rowan University. (For the full story behind this read “How Camden got a medical school” on nj.com.) It is this medical school which forms the basis of the Advisory Committee’s recommendation that Rutgers Camden be separated from Rutgers and subsumed under Rowan University. Another Adivsory Committee proposal is that Robert Woods Johnson Medical School leave the UMDNJ umbrella and become a part of Rutgers University. There are other proposals in the Committee’s report and none are dependent upon or linked to any of the others.
This is the committee’s rationale for placing the current Rutgers Camden under Rowan’s control is:
Today southern New Jersey has the elements needed to support the medical school but it is the Committee.’s view that current institutional alignments do not allow for those elements.’ best use.The region boasts strong undergraduate and graduate programs offered by two good universities, Rowan University and Rutgers University Camden. Only Rowan.’s programs are currently connected to Cooper Medical School.
It is the idea that Rowan has purchased a medical school but might not, in and of itself, have the elements needed to support it. And thus Rutgers Camden should severed from Rutgers and attached to Rowan, becoming part of Rowan University.
Medical schools are big undertakings, that is certain. And expensive ones. In 2007 the American Academy of Family Physicians estimated that “the annual cost of running a medical school in the range of $67,000 to $80,000 per student, of which state appropriations cover anywhere from 50 percent to 90 percent of the cost. Each new medical school carries an additional operational cost.”
Another aspect of the Advisory Committee’s recommendation is that Rowan University, if it takes over Rutgers Camden, could grow into a research university. Growth is a term with several meanings. Rowan owns a considerable number of acres of undeveloped land near Glassboro and has some plans to put buildings there at some point in the future. So they could grow on their own.
One problem with this is Rowan’s debt load, and the cost of running the medical school. In 1 Moody’s rating of Rowan’s bonds it references the schools relatively high level of debt and the importance of increasing tuition levels to keep up with debt repayment. The Moody’s report assumes that will happen through tuition increases, but it is possible that adding a satellite campus (the current Rutgers Camden) might also do the trick. Moody’s also comments on the high cost of setting up and running a medical school. The state has pledged money for this purpose but it must be approved each year. What happens if the state doesn’t approve it one year? Rowan is still on the hook for the money. In current circumstances Rowan might have trouble borrowing more money to build, in either the physical or metaphorical sense.
One wonders whether it might not have been better to combine the existing School of Osteopathic Medicine with Rowan, instead of starting up a new school. Or why Richard Stockton College, also in South Jersey, which has a Doctorate in Physical Therapy and a Masters program in Nursing, was not included in the South Jersey mash up.
There is little to do now other than wait to see what the Rutgers Board of Governors and Board of Trustees say about the proposal.